Timberland has a long heritage of environmental stewardship, responsible sourcing and social justice. Our CSR efforts date back to the early 1990’s when we launched our Path of ServiceTM employee volunteer program and our supplier Code of Conduct. Timberland’s past, present, and future are fueled by a desire to innovate and operate our business in an accountable, responsible and sustainable manner. In these 20+ years of driving commerce & justice hand in hand, we’ve learned that we innovate and drive progress best in collaboration with others.
Below are examples of collaborations Timberland has participated in over the years to drive positive social and environmental progress across the footwear and apparel industry, and beyond.
BICEP, a project of Ceres, was founded in November 2008 and is an advocacy coalition of businesses committed to working with policy makers to pass meaningful energy and climate legislation and giving consumer-facing businesses a stronger voice in the formation of progressive climate change legislation. Timberland and the other founding members of BICEP saw a need to form the new coalition, rather than joining other established organizations whose members tend to be larger emitters with different needs than what many consumer companies face. BICEP’s members are primarily consumer companies that are not major greenhouse gas emitters, but will nevertheless be impacted by climate regulations and other climate-related impacts. BICEP members believe that climate change will impact all sectors of the economy and that various business perspectives are needed to provide a full spectrum of viewpoints for solving the climate and energy challenges.
In April 2005, Timberland and a number of other brands formed a coalition called the Leather Working Group (LWG), an organization with the objective of developing and maintaining a protocol that assesses the compliance and environmental performance of tanners, and promoting sustainable and appropriate environmental business practices within the leather industry.
“Initially, there was pushback from the tanneries, who said, ‘We don’t need another audit’” reveals Rick LaTouch, Senior Manager of Leather Development at Timberland. However, once tanneries realized the benefit of creating alignment on environmental issues the improvement was exponential. LWG environmental audits are conducted 18 months apart, and the results between first and subsequent audits for all participating tanneries were overall reductions of 15 to 20 percent in water and energy use. Tanneries have also seen improvements in air emissions, water effluent quality, waste, and restricted substance handling. LWG audited tanneries were soon setting the standard for environmental performance in the footwear leather industry. As a result of its commitment to the LWG, Timberland has set a target to source leather only from tanneries that are rated silver or higher—not an easy task for the factories in question. “Obtaining a medal isn’t easy,” LaTouch points out. “The protocol is dynamic and is regularly updated to ensure that it is challenging but achievable. Seldom does a tannery get audited the same way twice. The tanners understand that it’s good for the industry – and the planet.”
In 2007, Timberland joined forces with REI to launch a group within the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) that was then called the Eco Working Group. The group set out to find a common way to measure the performance of outdoor industry products. The impetus for the project was the “nutrition label” and the “Green Index” rating systems that Timberland had introduced the preceding year to provide consumers with environmental performance data about the company and of its footwear products. OIA members were interested to see if something similar could be adopted by the outdoor industry so that outdoor consumers could make more informed purchasing decisions. What started as a small group of leading outdoor brands turned into an industry-wide effort involving nearly 200 brands and their suppliers. The initiative got so much momentum that other industry sectors—like the apparel industry—took notice and organized to adopt the tool.
The story of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition begins with a letter sent in 2010 designed to get the attention of even a busy CEO. At the top: the logos of Walmart and Patagonia. John Fleming, who was then Walmart’s chief merchandising officer, and Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder, signed the letter, which invited chief executives of some of the world’s biggest clothing companies–fierce competitors, ordinarily — to join together to develop an index to measure the environmental impact of their products. Having received this letter, Timberland was quick to accept the invitation and follow through with its commitment to the industry by donating its product environmental impact measurement and product labeling system, the Green Index. In addition to leveraging the work of the Green Index and the OIA’s Eco Working Group, the SAC incorporated data from Nike to make a tool specific to the entire apparel industry. The SAC voted to approve this new index in June 2012, renamed the Higg Index.